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A Primer on Google Analytics Part 2: Traffic Sources

google analytics tipsIn part one of our series on understanding Google Analytics, we took an in-depth look at the first major section, “Visitors”, which gives outstanding depth and detail on the characteristics of those visiting your site. In this instalment, we will look at the “Traffic Sources” section and get an idea of where our traffic is coming from. As with all of these screens, you start on the “Overview” screen. This gives you a quick summation of the type of traffic you’re getting in a graphical format.

The “Overview” screen gives you a brief rundown of direct traffic, traffic from referrals and traffic from search engine results, as well as the top traffic sources including specific sources and keywords. You can click on specific entries to get more detail. The “Direct Traffic” screen shows you  how many direct visits you’ve received in a specific time period, as well as statistics on how much time they spent on the site, what the bounce rate is, how many pages they’ve visited and so on.

The “Referring Sites” screen will give you detailed information about which sites people used to arrive at yours, as well as statistics on how much time users from each referrer stayed on the site, their bounce rate, and so on. Clicking on an entry will give you the specific URL from which visitors arrived at your site, along with the usual statistics. This is great if you wish you diagnose why more people are coming from one site, or even one page of that site, over another and then act accordingly.

The “Search Engines” screen gives you detailed information about which search engines sent visitors to your site. Clicking upon a specific search engine will show you the keywords used for that specific section, which will have some overlay with the “Keywords” section we’ll talk about in a moment. This section allows you to drill down how people found you through organic searching, and lets you diagnose search engine problems (i.e. “why is everyone finding your site only on Yahoo?”, for example).

The next screen, “All Traffic Sources” is a mixture of the previous three screens, allowing you to get a complete overview of how people are arriving at your site and is pretty self-explanatory. The next section, “AdWords” applies if you have an AdWords campaign running and have linked it with Google Analytics. Here you can get data on your campaigns and keyword positions easily, saving you some time from having to access two dashboards.

The “Keywords” screen gives you a wider overview of the keywords people use to find your website in all of the various search engines. This is a wider view than the keywords shown in the “Search Engines” screen, showing you a complete number of visits per keywords, rather than drilling it down by search engine. The final two screens, “Campaigns” and “Ad Versions” are also tied into Google AdWords, and give more details on your campaigns and the various traffic your specific ads are bringing in.

As you can see, the “Traffic Sources” section of Google Analytics gives webmasters quite a lot of information as to how visitors find their sites. This information can be useful in diagnosing what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to content, ad placement, link building, search engine results and much more. In the next instalment, we’ll talk about the “Content” section of Google Analytics.

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